“It’s a statement to the whole world and an achievement at multiple levels.”
Two years after Kashmiri journalists first brought home the prestigious Pulitzer prize for capturing the political predicament in the region, a young Kashmiri woman photojournalist has now bagged the gold for her pandemic coverage.
Sanna Irshad Mattoo is among the four photojournalists who won the 2022 Pulitzer in the Feature Photography category for their COVID crisis coverage in India.
She took her prized picture last year in the south Kashmir heights where vaccinators fought vaccine hesitancy and the grassroots grouse amid the sweeping second viral wave.
“Despite a terrible working environment, Kashmiri journalists continue to shine, winning prestigious international awards,” said Majid Maqbool, a senior Kashmiri scribe. “The award is a dishonourable slap on the face of propagandists.”A Central University of Kashmir passout, Sanna comes from Old Srinagar in whose labyrinth lanes she first captured different shades of life as an independent journalist.
The ‘girl with a camera’ was shortly noticed in the men-dominated mediascape and created her own distinction. Following her local media stint and a few freelance gigs, she started working with Reuters.
Her feat in the backdrop of her relentless ground visual reportage has ‘thrilled’ her tribe members.
“The new passouts from different journalism schools in Kashmir have time and again proved their talent internationally and I am personally thrilled and proud at the moment,” said Yusuf Jameel, a veteran Kashmiri journalist.
“It’s a statement to the whole world and an achievement at multiple levels,” the scribe said.
“It’s also a feat of a Muslim woman who is a Kashmiri in an atmosphere of animosity and anxiety.”
Sanna is among the young journalists being hailed for keeping the true spirit of journalism and visual storytelling alive in the “testing times”.
“This Pulitzer feat has rekindled the hope of new prospectus in Kashmiri journalism and it’ll inspire more storytellers,” says Riyaz Masroor of BBC.
“The prestigious award being won by the first woman journalist from Kashmir has also come as a positive promise that one can move forward if there is fire in the belly and fetch recognition from quarters that matter.”Before Sanna, Dar Yasin and Mukhtar Khan of Associated Press won the prestigious award in 2020 for their challenging Kashmir assignment during the communication blockade imposed in the region on the heels of the abrogation of Article 370.
But while the prize is termed as a new hope to Kashmir journalism, Kashmir’s noted broadcast journalist Shahana Bhat thinks otherwise.
“Despite Kashmiri journalists winning the prestigious awards and doing their best,” she said, “the unfortunate part and the reality remains that the situation of journalism in Kashmir isn’t changing or improving at all.”